Israeli Lawmakers Extend Emergency Rule Limiting Palestinian Family Reunification

Despite criticism, 2003 regulation again extended for a year. Meretz MK Galon: Right-wing government 'hates and excludes Arabs.'

Demonstration in Tel Aviv in favor of family reunification, January 2012.
Moti Milrod

The emergency regulation that restricts family reunification among Palestinians was again extended by the Knesset on Monday, with 65 MKs voting in favor and 14 against, on Monday. Despite Zionist Union’s criticism of the measure, faction members supported it.

The directive, which has been extended annually since first instituted in 2003, limits the granting of citizenship or residency to Palestinians who marry Israelis.

MK Avi Dichter (Likud), chairman of the joint committee that examined the subject, said, “In the war on terror there is no single switch that will stop all the attacks. There are a number of switches and we must turn off as many as we can. One of these switches is the Citizenship and Entry Law that was legislated during the second intifada in 2003.

“One way to deal with the issue is the self-flagellation that has become popular of late,” the MK continued. “There are those who say that we've related to Arabs as an inferior race, who compare us to that Germany . The peak was reached by the mayor who turned into a star on Al-Jazeera when he said that the attack in Tel Aviv was the result of the occupation. A phenomenon has developed of ‘sorry that we won.’ The second way of dealing with this is to understand that this terror keg has a bottom. There are ways to fight terror, and this law and its extension is one such measure.”

According to the security forces, between 2001 and 2016, 104 people who had entered Israel through family reunification measures perpetrated terror attacks, of whom 17 had been granted residency on the basis of marriage, while 87 were relatives of those who had achieved such status. During the recent escalation of violence that began in October, and through April, 30 people legally residing in Israel as a result of to family reunification procedures were involved in perpetrating terror attacks, 73 percent of those individuals with Israeli identification documents.

Several opposition MKs spoke out on Monday against reinstituting the regulation once more.

“The figures presented here are mistaken because residents of East Jerusalem who committed attacks in the past year are not included in family reunification. We would like to reiterate that East Jerusalem is part of the occupied territories,” said MK Osama Saadia (Joint List). “In fact, barely one in a thousand of all the terrorists since 2003 are people who are here under family reunification.”

Said MK Zehava Galon (Meretz): “There were interior ministers over the years who explained to us that this law was crucial because there’s a demographic threat, because Israeli Arabs bring in wives from the territories. Then it became a security threat. The truth is that we have a right-wing government that hates Arabs, excludes them, and is using attacks as an excuse for this disgrace.”

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said he wasn’t convinced by the security services’ data, “But we agreed to support extension of the regulation because Dichter promised that during the coming half year there will be committee discussions that will examine the order thoroughly and in-depth to see if it’s still justified.”